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Raiders vs Titans preview: What to watch for, keys, match-ups, story lines, more

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As we all eat our third plate of Thanksgiving leftovers, we get ready to watch the Raiders take on the Tennessee Titans.

For all the nuts and bolts and viewing details, click here.

Still looking for first favored win

This is the fourth game this season in which the Raiders are favored to win. The previous three games were against the Bears, Vikings, and Lions - all losses. Even with having lost three straight, the Raiders are favored. They take another shot against a reeling Titans team that has won just two games this season and lost to the Jaguars last week.

Decade doldrums

It's been a while since the Raiders beat the Titans. Ten years to be exact. They have lost three-straight games against the Titans in 2013, 2010, and 2007. Last week they faced the Lions in Detroit, where the ‘Oakland' Raiders have never won. That win over the Titans in 2005 was the only time the Raiders have won in Nashville where they have a 1-5 all-time record.

Titans pass rushing prowess

The Titans have the third best passing defense in the NFL this season. That ranking is a direct byproduct of their fierce pass rush which has put up 31 sacks on the season. They are fourth in the NFL in sacks behind some powerhouse defenses, including both of the league's undefeated teams - Broncos (34), Panthers (33), and Patriots (32). Directly behind the Titans are the Lions who have 30 sacks this season and who gave the Raiders all kinds of problems last week, led by Ezekial Ansah.

Leading the way for the Titans is Brian Orakpo with 7.0 sacks this season. After that it's linebacker Wesley Woodyard and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey tied with 5.0 sacks apiece. As a result, that defense has given up over 300 yards passing just once this season - a win over the Saints.

Pressure's on Mariota

Bishop Sankey was supposed to be the team's answer at running back. He hasn't been. The leading rusher instead has been Antonio Andrews who is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. The second leading rusher, and third leading receiver (27 catches) is Dexter McCluster and he's not expected to play this week with a knee injury he suffered in last week's loss to the Jaguars. This puts a lot of pressure on Mariota to carry the team whether that be on his arm or with his legs.

Most think of Mariota as a running quarterback, but he's not. He's a pocket passer who has the ability to run. If you needed proof, you just needed to watch last week's game against the Jaguars when he had his first rushing touchdown of the season. It went for 23 yards and was his longest run of the season. It doesn't help when the opposing defenses are able to focus on stopping him because the Titans have no running game to speak of. You can expect the Raiders will do the same. Put the game on the arm of the rookie signal caller.

Tennessee Tightends

Through the first portion of this season, the Raiders' issues covering the tight end were well noted. They allowed several tight ends to put of career numbers against them. The past few weeks they haven't been quite as susceptible, though there are still moments where the tight end is mysteriously wide open. Well, the Titans love the tight end. Their top receiver is Delanie Walker who leads the team in every receiving category - targets (66), catches (53), yards (617) and touchdowns (3). Their fourth leading receiver is tight end Anthony Fasano who has 19 catches for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns.

By week five the Raiders had discovered the key to their stopping the tight end was Neiron Ball. He has been out the past month with a knee injury and won't play this week either. So, this will be probably their biggest tight end coverage test in some time.

TJ Carrie vs Kendall Wright

The Titans had been without their best receiver the past three weeks. Wright is expected to return to the lineup this week and strengthens their aerial attack considerably. The Raiders got their best corner back two weeks ago. Carrie was playing safety during Nate Allen's absence for the previous two months. Last week when the Raiders faced the Lions, Carrie was not the best match-up with their top receiver Calvin Johnson. That turned out to be David Amerson who has much better size and skills for facing a receiver like Johnson.

Against the 5-10,  193-pound Wright, Carrie should be a very good match-up. Carrie has him by two inches on him and does well shadowing speedy receivers like Wright.

Has Amerson finally earned starting job?

Not sure what else David Amerson has to do to earn a starting job on this team. He has been far and away better than DJ Hayden and yet since Carrie returned to cornerback, Hayden continues to get the start ahead of Amerson. Last week Amerson locked down the elite Calvin Johnson in coverage. Amerson had four passes defended with three of them coming in coverage of Megatron.

The Titans have a very big receivers on the roster in 6-5 , 225-pound Dorial Green-Beckham. If it isn't Amerson covering him when he is on the field at all times, the Raiders coaching staff is making a big mistake.

Amari Cooper stop drop and roll

Early in the season, Amari Cooper was on fire. Lately he has cooled off considerably, including last week when he had more drops (2) than catches (1). The Raiders need his explosiveness to get open and then get downfield. Oh, and be sure and catch the ball inbetween. He has ten drops this season which is tied for second most in the league. When he's been great, he's been elite and at one time led the league in yards after catch. However, the key part of that statement is CATCH. Gotta get those first.

New return man

This week the Raiders signed former Ravens return man Jeremy Ross to the practice squad and then added him to the active roster. With Taiwan Jones ailing with a knee injury and questionable for the game, it appears the Raiders could have a new kick returner for this game. Ross was cut for fumbling twice in three games. That's nothin'! Taiwan fumbles three times in one game this season and fumbled again last week in his only touch. Ross has averaged nearly 30 yards per kick return this season with a long of 46 yards. The former Cal Bear and Sacramento native has one career kick return touchdown. It went for 98 yards in 2013 as a member of the Detroit Lions. He also had a punt return touchdown that season.